Namda is a form of matting. It is also used as bed covers and mattresses. However, Namdas find most of their use in the form of traditional matting, spread on the floor to adorn homes. Namda making is a rare and unique craft wherein splendid floor pieces are made from wool by practice of felting the wool rather than weaving it. Every kashmiri households, be it a rich man’s palace or a poor man’s cottage, there is a culture of sitting on the floor. And the floor gets agonizingly cold during the winter months that see a standard climate with heavy snowfall, chilly cold winds and a sub zero temperature and to make a cosy sitting arrangement on the floor, Namda comes to rescue. Namdas form a premier part of home furnishings in the valley and even beyond.
Namda derives its name from a man Nubi, who conceived the idea of felted carpets made in wool, hence the name Namda. Back in the 11th century, when Akbar held the throne, the King ran a proclamation demanding a warm coverage for his cold-bitten horse. That was when felting of wool took birth to become a world class craft form that continues to awe strike till date. Like most of the other crafts that stand at the very Kashmiri cultural base, the art of Namda making was brought to Kashmir by the Sufi saint, Shah- e- Hamdan, who came with the generous mission of bringing livelihood to the local kashmiris. They say, give a poor man a fish and you feed him for a day, teach him to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. Namda making continues to form the livelihood of a significant percentage of the people of Kashmir even to this day.
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Making of Namda:
Namda is made by felting of wool rather than weaving it. The process is a very interesting one. Wool is spread evenly in a thick layer on a grass mat or jute mat and sprinkled generously with soap water. Wool used here might be white or dyed. The mat is then rolled tightly and tied up with a rope and compressed by way of rolling to and fro on the floor with the help of hands and feet. This process goes on for about an hour. This allows fusing together of the fibre technically known as ‘fibre to fibre’ fusion. The rope is then untied and the mat unrolled to discover the well shaped Namda. This plain Namda is then embroidered with the beautiful Kashmiri Aari Embroidery. Washed and dried, this namda is already a marvel. For making a patterned namda, the craftsmen need to felt in the design into the Namda fibre itself. This involves a dual process of felting. First, a pattern is laid on the grass or jute mat which is then surfaced with wool spread evenly with the help of a broom locally called ‘manzyen’. Then the same process of sprinkling soap water and rolling of the mat is again carried out. On untying, it reveals a beautiful Namda drawn over with colourful patterns.
The market for Namda t is located primarily in the downtown area of Shehr-e-khaas, Anantnag, Rainawari and Baramulla areas of Kashmir. Namda craft continues to serve as a sole source of income for many artisans in the Valley.
Kashmir Namda industry has seen both highs and lows. It saw an outstretched period of boom when Namda became an internationally lauded marvel of interior designing. Kashmir became a fierce exporter of Namdas to Europe and Japan. This was the golden era for the Kashmiri Namda craftsmen. However, this was followed by a long slackening period. This started as a result of profit mongering intermediaries compromising on the quality of the fibre used in Namda making. A Japanese client tested the Namdas for quality and found low quality wool in a high percentage leading to a ban on Namda imports by Japan. This came as a blow to the artisans who became the sole bearers of the devastating slump in the Namda industry. It is now that young entrepreneurs like Miss Arifa Jan are reviving the art of Namda making in a way that makes no compromise on quality and is doing everything to restore this craft to its original glory. To make this possible, Miss Arifa Jan has started her own brand Incredible Kashmir Craft ( IKC) that is rebuilding the lost grandeur of Namdas.